Development of therapies for neurological disorders depends on our ability to non-invasively diagnose and monitor the progression of underlying pathologies at the cellular level. Physics and physiology limit the resolution of human MRI to be orders of magnitude coarser than cell dimensions. Here we identify and quantify the MRI signal coming from within micrometer-thin axons in human white matter tracts in vivo, by utilizing the sensitivity of diffusion MRI to Brownian motion of water molecules restricted by cell walls. We study a specific power-law scaling of the diffusion MRI signal with the diffusion weighting, predicted for water confined to narrow axons, and quantify axonal water fraction and orientation dispersion.
Keywords: Axon diameter; Diffusion MRI; Modeling; Power law scaling; Validation; White matter.
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